Races 4, 5 and 6 of the Challenger Playoff Final were held today in winds from 16 knots to as little as 11 knots. The big factor for the day was that the teams both changed their daggerboards in opposite directions. The Swedes went for the small, high speed boards which are best suited to stronger winds while the Kiwis opted for the bigger low speed, light wind boards. This was probably mostly driven by different weather forecasts.
As it turned out, race 4, was sailed in 16 knots and Artemis had it right and led wire to wire. Score goes to 2-2.
In race 5, the wind was the lightest of the day at 11 knots. The Kiwis were fast upwind and won this race even though they were behind at mark 1 and 2. Artemis misplaced a tack on the first upwind leg and the Kiwis sail around them rather easily. Ultimately Artemis had some daggerboard issues on the final run of this race and retired to address them and be ready for race 6.
In race 6, once again Artemis had the lead at marks 1 and 2. On the first upwind leg, the Kiwis tacked to port and Artemis did a big dial down, aiming at the Kiwis and forcing them to make a big alteration of course, and fall off their foils. Still the Kiwis are going faster and come to the top gate even with Artemis. Down the run the Kiwis pass in more wind on the left side of the course and build a decent lead during legs 4, 5 and 6. At the final gate, the Kiwis mismanage the lay line and fall off their foils in a gybe. Artemis was bearing down on them at 40 knots while the Kiwis were doing 15 knots. The Kiwis got up and foiling just in time to win by 1 second. Heart stopping stuff for Kiwi fans.
The Kiwis now lead the series 4-2. Artemis has to win 3 in a row tomorrow to win the series while the Kiwis need just one more win.
The Kiwis have been behind at Mark 1 and 2 in all 6 races of these finals. Today, Artemis’ smaller boards helped them on leg 1 but they paid for that on the upwind legs in races 5 and 6. Still, Peter Burling is going to have to do better in the starts and boat on boat situations to beat Jimmy Spithill and the Oracle team in the Cup.
As a side note, I got to follow the race in the television boat which is right behind the race boats. I was used by the America’s Cup TV crew to give a few comment from the race track. I had fun doing that and hope to be “used” again someday.